On Saturday night against the Colorado Rapids, FC Dallas midfielder Ramon Nunez did something that has eluded him thus far in his three-year MLS career -- score multiple goals in a game. His 71st-minute tally broke a 1-1 tie and proved to be the deciding blow in the Hoops 4-1 win, before hitting just three minutes later from a direct free kick.
"I was definitely very happy about it," he said. "Whenever you score goals, it's a happy time, especially for me since that is what I love doing. Being able to score two goals is a blessing."
The 20-year-old midfielder returned to the Hoops' starting 11 on July 15 at Chicago and his comeback couldn't have come at a better time. FCD had lost Carlos Ruiz, their leader in goals and assists plus fellow striker Roberto Mina, who has three goals this season the previous week and needed to get goals from other sources.
Against the Fire, Nunez quickly showed his fitness when he scored the first goal of the game, putting his side up 1-0 with a third-minute goal. Then came his two-goal effort against the Rapids.
"I try to get the ball as much as possible and try to make the (other) team move around," Nunez said. "I felt that in the first half (against Colorado) that I didn't do it enough. In the second half, (FCD head coach) Colin (Clarke) asked me to come inside more to find the ball and start to take control of the game. I was able to do that and get a couple of goals."
Heading into Saturday's match, Clarke knew that the Honduras native would be a key to the game because he didn't make the trip to Monterrey, Mexico, to play Tigres UANL on Wednesday.
Nunez missed that trip because he was awaiting pertinent international travel documents. He would have been fine leaving the country but could have experienced problems returning because of his status. The FCD field boss credits Nunez's fresh legs for his great performance. "I thought he was superb," Clarke said. "He found the ball in the first half. In the second half, he had two good goals. He had fresh legs."
Last year Nunez, the sixth overall selection in the 2004 SuperDraft after playing one year at Southern Methodist, finished the year with a flurry by scoring five goals in the Hoops' final 10 games and ended 2005 with five goals and three assists.
He put those numbers up while appearing in 21 games, 12 of those starts. After seeing time in 15 games this year and starting in 12, his numbers are identical. Nunez's 2006 stats are even more impressive considering that he has missed five games because of injury.
Nunez has put his injury woes in his rear view mirror and was clearly pleased with his effort against the Rapids.
Still, Clarke said that while Nunez has been playing extremely well for FCD since returning from injury, he still isn't quite 100 percent.
"I think he's close," he said. "He's still missing that little bit of sharpness."
Steve Hunt is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.